A Lush, Creative Life: On Making Something Out of Nothing
It’s raining in Brooklyn this morning. My coffee is steaming next to me and the birds are starting to chirp outside. Have I mentioned how much I love rainy mornings? There is nothing else like one.
I’m drafting up this week’s Hey Mishka Coffee Break newsletter and I, just now, attempted to distill a pretty long soapbox moment into it. It’s a rallying cry, really, for my fellow creatives and DIY-life lovers—and virtually anyone who loves to make things.
I’ve been chewing on some eye-opening thoughts about my excuses for not “making more stuff”, you see. And rather than send an email that causes finger spasms from excess scrolling, I decided to pop it into a blog post.
(If you’re not subscribed to the newsletter, get signed up here! It’s rather cheery and full of good vibes, which we all need more of right now.)
I’ve been thinking about why we limit ourselves so damn much on a daily basis when we could be making magnificent, imperfect art more often. I’d like to wax on creativity for a second—and how this whole lockdown thing has triggered something in my (right) brain.
I’ve been up all night editing my newest video about color aura photography (it’ll be out early this week, Scout’s honor).
It’s been a doozy to create but it’s testing my ability to focus and pushing me to be a little more creative, to spend a little more time on the details.
That push I gave myself, after a long pep-talk on creativity with my guy (so he gets some credit as well), had me feeling invigorated and capable of damn near anything. A familiar, yet far away feeling I only encounter a few times each year.
That feeling is the creative essence of my younger self.
I often say I want to “recapture” my creative youth, my design-school-self, to somehow channel the passion and drive I had before the real world supposedly jaded me. But does creativity really require innocence and naivety?
I’m officially voting “no”.
The real world’s barriers, if they exist, are the excuses I make for not allowing myself to become that passionate designer again.
I wield those excuses often, and I live in the invisible shadows of non-existent projects that could have filled my life with joy, with the kind of lushness that only comes from turning an idea into a tangible thing.
It might sound dramatic, but it is dramatic.
It is heartbreaking.
It is soul-crushing.
It is a nightmare to have the memories of your former creative self haunt you when you can’t seem to pick up a colored pencil these days without second-guessing what the point is.
See, it’s easy for me to be lazy, to chalk up my former ambition to being an obliviously optimistic, annoyingly skinny girl with literal stars dancing around in her eyes.
It’s easy to sketch once a month. To buy art supplies and never use them. It’s easy to say I don’t have time to learn new software or troubleshoot my way from concept to creation. It’s just so freaking easy to make excuses instead of creating something.
It’s such a comfortable thing to prioritize virtually any other task so I don’t get to activate the scary, beautiful part of the brain that makes something out of literally nothing.
Why has complacency crept in so severely? Why should time traversed and wisdom gained mean we create less, or doubt ourselves more?
Sure, I have (a lot) more worries than I did when I was studying visual communications and fashion design. But as a student, you can bet I had “problems” filling my head as well. They were just of a different, less urgent variety.
The difference is simply that my priority was creativity. I was surrounded by it, swimming in it, sometimes even drowning in it. I was sketching, beading, sewing, drafting, collaging, painting as though the muse would never leave me.
I felt that energy swell when I saw my peers working, when I went fabric shopping, when I flipped through Italian fashion magazines or browsed design blogs. And guess what. That’s what I did with most of my free time. I was ravenous for inspiration.
And hey, college is fun. It was a blissfully demanding time where I learned a little bit about what I was capable of. I relished in those 3 am coffee runs, those hand-sewn jackets, and my mess of markers sprawled across the workroom table.
(I could go on for days.)
Anyway, that time was precious to me for many reasons, but above all, the gift of prioritizing creativity reigns among them.
I mean, damn, what a privilege that was.
Since then, the magic has faded. Or maybe it has just changed. You never fully reclaim the innocence of your youth in all the ways you wish you could—BUT! That’s no reason to mourn your former self or throw in the towel as a creative soul.
In fact, I think we should embrace being stressed, busy, and confused as new challenges to overcome as artists.
I think we should be inspired by those who are creating in spite of it all, at whatever age, because their soul calls them to do it… and then give ourselves permission to do the same.
Don’t we deserve that sense of accomplishment? That feeling of being wholly alive?
I can’t get that feeling many places, but it ignites in all of my cells when I am making something.
I look around and see that many of my peers have held fast to their own creative impulses, and it inspires me whenever they share something new. High fashion illustrations, hysterically funny blog posts, costume designs for the biggest productions in the world, lovingly knitted accessories, handmade home decor, sketches of people on the train…
It has been hard for me to jump from feeling sorry for myself to realizing that I have all the permission in the world to be as creative as I can.
It seems like I’m always in my head wondering how I can make life a little more special, a little more exciting. But the answer has always been right in front of me.
And no, it’s not a new set of juice glasses from Anthropologie. Sure, they spark all the aesthetic joy but they’re not life-changing, know what I mean?
Creating is what makes life a little more special, a little more exciting.
And now that we’ve officially been in lockdown for a month, I’m committing. I want to exceed myself creatively, to try new things and take creative risks. I want to pop this cute little bubble I’ve been living in and sink my teeth right into life, whether via paintbrush or Wacom tablet.
From the interior of my home to the pages of my sketchbook, I just want to make it all more magical.
Not perfect, not proper, not polished!
Just ME, through and through.
So, friends, I hope you’ll consider joining me as lockdown continues (and far beyond). Whatever you’re going through, whatever your daily schedule looks like right now, try to find a bit of time each day to make something out of nothing. Weave a tiny bit of magic out of thin air.
If not each day, then each week. Or each whenever-you-can. But be honest with yourself. Don’t keep telling yourself that you “don’t have time” or “don’t have energy”, when you’re a creative person who needs creativity to survive.
It may be hard to get a clear read on how you’re feeling right now because of everything going on in the world, but it’s worth seeing whether tapping back into that artistic energy will brighten up your days, isn’t it?
I certainly think so.
The harsh reality of the pandemic is something I check in with each day in the news, just for a minute. Just to see if there’s anything crucial I need to know. But otherwise, I am lucky enough to be healthy in the safety of my apartment.
I recognize that some people can’t do that right now—including creatives, including artists. Because artists have many professions and wear many different hats/capes. Some of you are out there on the front lives, saving our asses.
So to you, I say thank you. And save your guilt for not painting until this is all over. You get a free pass.
For the rest of us, let’s rally.
You might start by making a list (or finding a list) or projects you’ve been thinking about starting—or saying you’re going to complete.
Pick one, and go.
We may never have a time like this again, when so many of us are idle in our homes (or finding idle hours between family time and homeschooling and other obligations—trying not to leave anyone out, I know everyone’s situation is unique).
Can you spare an hour today to bust out your micro pens or start a mood board?
Twirl that washi tape around your finger and sketch out a bullet journal page?
Bake a cake and decorate it like a perfectly imperfect masterpiece… then let the kids slam their hands in it?
Find that joy. Whatever it is.
As for me, I’m going to schedule more painting-and-wine dates on Skype with my friends, work on one of my unfinished fiction novels (major guilty pleasure alert!), and learn some new video editing techniques so I can infuse more of my own personality and style into my YouTube channel.
I might even try to make a rose-flavored latte. 😉
Whatever we all decide to do, let’s rediscover and embrace that feeling of art and creativity being the priority. We owe it to ourselves, past, present, and future.
Wow, this turned into quite the rambling essay! I think I won’t put sub-headlines or try to make it easier to read… because I’m going to embrace imperfection this week. *wink*
If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a comment below or come say hello on IG.
Always rooting for you.